Utah State’s Ryan Yonk: Same Soup, Different Bowl

Koch-backed research fellow prepares to push misinformation in front of Ohio RPS study committee.

Utah State’s Ryan Yonk: Same Soup, Different Bowl

Ryan Yonk

Since being burned for a misleading op-ed that he wrote for Newsweek, Utah State University (USU) Prof. Randy Simmons is letting his colleague, Dr. Ryan Yonk, bat “cleanup.” But if Yonk’s work on behalf of Koch-funded organizations goes unchallenged, Ohio’s economy and environment will likely suffer the consequences.

Despite the renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards passing with bipartisan support and that proved to be hugely beneficial for Ohio, there has been a concerted effort by the fossil fuel industry to weaken or repeal them. The latest example is a state legislative hearing set for next Monday (July 20th) where many of the invited speakers, like Professor Ryan Yonk, have a hidden agenda funded by out-of-state fossil fuel interests.

Background on Ohio’s RPS Freeze and Study Committee

Last year, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a law that froze the successful renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The RPS requires the increased production of energy from renewable sources. While ostensibly giving lawmakers time to study this anti-RPS law, the policy has led to a number of negative consequences for the state, according to a report published by the Center for American Progress (CAP). Business leaders interviewed by CAP have reported having to lay off or freeze the hiring of new employees, move operations to other more renewable-energy supportive states or cancel projects as a result.

As the Energy Mandates Study Committee, made up of state Ohio Senate and House members and the chair of the Public Utilities Commission, gathers information for its final recommendations due September 30th, the usual anti-clean energy suspects are rearing their heads, touting the same discredited research, funded by the same fossil fuel front organizations. The Strata Institute, founded by Ryan Yonk, Randy Simmons and Chris Fawson, is one of the most visible and disreputable. Strata has published similar misleading studies on RPS laws in North Carolina and also Kansas.

Uncloaking the Funding Sources of Fossil Fuel Pundits

As I mentioned earlier, Simmons, the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at USU, was recently involved in a scandal that stemmed from his failure to disclose his ties with the Koch brothers in his April 11th op-ed for Newsweek. During my interview with him shortly after, he made a number of inaccurate statements regarding his cozy relationship with the Kochs, but ultimately admits to his funding ties to them when pressed:

Utah State’s Ryan Yonk: Same Soup, Different Bowl Koch-backed research fellow prepares to push misinformation in front of Ohio RPS study committee.

Maybe this is why Strata is sending Ryan Yonk to promote Strata’s hidden agenda before the study committee next Monday.

Despite the dubious assertions in the Strata report, studies have shown the benefits of RPS far outweigh the costs. For example, wind energy significantly reduces energy prices for consumers and transmission lines benefit customers, among others.

The questionable rigor of Yonk’s USU report on Ohio’s RPS, coupled with his work for another Koch-funded group, the Mercatus Center, means that he has serious problems with the credibility of his research. For example, his report ignores the fact that the RPS was put in place to balance Ohio’s energy portfolio and hedge against fluctuations in coal and natural gas prices.

Study Committee Members: Beware of the Source

With this in mind, why would they send him before the Ohio study committee instead of Randy Simmons? Is it because Yonk has a lower profile right now, and his appearance would not draw as much scrutiny?

Before making their final recommendations about the future of the RPS, it is vital that the members of the RPS study committee and the public have complete transparency about the true agenda of the Koch brothers, Strata and, especially, Ryan York.

Ohio’s future deserves more than just smoke and mirrors. Learn more about the Energy Mandates Study Committee here.

 

Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

How Natural Gas Drilling Contaminates Drinking Water Sources [Infographic]

How Natural Gas Drilling Contaminates Drinking Water Sources

How Natural Gas Drilling Contaminates Drinking Water Sources

New Poll Shows Ohioans Want More Renewable Energy, Oppose Older Coal-Fired Plants

An overwhelming majority of Ohioans strongly oppose a plan proposed by FirstEnergy Corp. and American Electric Power for their customers to pay more for electricity generated by old, coal-fired and nuclear plants and instead wants more investment in wind farms and solar arrays.

Support for energy-efficiency is also very high in Ohio, with more than two-thirds saying the state should be spending more on such programs.

The survey of customers of American Electric Power and FirstEnergy Corp. was conducted August 7-9 and was commissioned by The Sierra Club and Public Citizen.

New Poll Shows Ohioans Want More Renewable Energy, Oppose Older Coal-Fired Plants

Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.

The proposed plan by AEP and FirstEnergy would, if approved by Ohio regulators, guarantee that the 36-year old Davis-Bessie nuclear plant and the W.H. Sammis coal plant, built in 1959, continue in operation.  The plan is opposed by 75% of the utilities’ customers, according to the poll.

The results of the poll are interesting in light of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s recent signing into law legislation that freezes the state’s renewable energy program. The new law also authorizes a two-year study period to determine the value of clean energy.

Why did Gov. Kasich become the first governor in the nation to do so? Perhaps when we receive a response to our latest records request, we’ll find out.

Kasich Actions Against Clean Energy Jobs Raising Eyebrows Across the Country

When Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed legislation two months ago to freeze the state’s renewable energy portfolio, the message he sent was heard coast-to-coast. On Monday, The Boston Globe was the latest to weigh in. In an editorial titled, “States should not take Ohio’s lead on freezing boston globerenewable energy standards,” the Globe editorial board declared:

“Ohio’s goal, set in 2008, was to have 12.5 percent of energy come from renewable sources by 2025. That’s a modest target, but significant nonetheless. Ohio is on the front lines of the fight against greenhouse-gas emissions, with a whopping 69 percent of its electricity coming from the dirtiest of fossil fuels, coal.

While low-income consumers may be loath to pay a penny more for electricity in order to curb climate change, they should at least appreciate the benefits of supporting home-grown sources; Iowa, for example, gets more than 27 percent of its electricity from wind power.”

Support for the clean energy industry in Ohio is especially important light of the 25,000 jobs that were created there from 2009-2013 and the 12,400 jobs that were lost in July.

So why did Gov. Kasich sign the freeze, making him the first governor to do so nationwide? We’re curious.

Checks and Balances Project Re-files Records Request to Combat Kasich’s Evasion

Checks and Balances Project Re-files Records Request to Combat Kasich’s EvasionToday the Checks and Balances Project filed a second request for records for information into the reasons behind Governor Kasich’s decision to freeze clean energy jobs in the state. This request comes after the Kasich administration’s legal team ducked the clear questions asked in our first request.

Our new request asks for:

“any and all public records of conversations and/or emails pertaining to Senate Bill 310 and/or mention the word “energy” between Governor Kasich, his staff and representatives of the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity between January 1, 2014 and the present.”

and:

“public records of conversations and/or emails pertaining to Senate Bill 310 between Governor Kasich, his staff and employees or lobbyists employed by Ohio investor-owned utilities: AES, American Electric Power, Duke Energy and First Energy. This request is effective for the dates between January 1, 2014 and the present.”

We have made this request in light of significant lobbying spending by Ohio utilities and by the Koch Brothers. FirstEnergy alone has donated more than $800,000 to the Governor and legislature during this legislative session. We are also curious about a $12,155 donation (the maximum allowed donation under Ohio campaign finance law) made by David Koch, of Koch Industries, Inc. to Governor Kasich’ 2014 re-election campaign.

Ohioans deserve to know why Governor Kasich decided to sign SB 310 despite the fact that it could cost Ohio consumers $1.1 billion dollars (PDF), put 25,000 Ohio jobs at risk, was overwhelmingly opposed by Ohioans, major editorial pages in the state, and a significant number of major Ohio businesses.

You can read a full copy of the request here.

Columbus Dispatch: Group says Kasich evading records request

This article was published in the Columbus Dispatch.

By: Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch – August 13, 2014 11:34 AM

Comments: 0 8 86 130
A group dedicated to shining “a light on the fossil fuel lobby’s influence and propaganda” is warring with the administration of Ohio Gov. John Kasich over his office’s response to its public records request.

In a blog post, the Checks and Balances Project accuses the administration of evading its request for records concerning Senate Bill 310, which weakened Ohio’s renewable energy standards. The law was crafted by majority Republican lawmakers and signed by Kasich.

Simply put, the Kasich administration said in its response letter to the group, no records exist concerning the Check and Balance Project’s areas of inquiry and it failed to sufficiently identify records it sought concerning meetings between the governor’s staff and electrical (coal-burning) utility representatives.

The group was particularly interested in meetings between Kasich staff and conservative stalwarts such as the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity.

There were no meetings involving the Kochs or the conservative organizations, said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. Yes, the governor’s staff met with utility representatives — as did Democratic legislators — but those gatherings did not generate any records, he said.

“We’ve never heard of this organization,” Nichols said. “It should put in a public records request with every Democrat who voted against (Senate Bill) 310 to prove they didn’t meet with Al Gore, the Earth Liberation Front and with (green-energy advocate and Eagles’ drummer) Don Henley.”

Kasich Evades Questions on Energy Jobs Freeze

Kasich Evades Questions on Energy Jobs Freeze

Ohio Governor John Kasich

After more than a month of waiting, Governor Kasich’s administration has responded to our request for answers to basic questions
about the clean energy job freeze, SB 310. Our ask was simple and clear. What we got back can charitably called an evasion. The response we received is from an administration that doesn’t want to be honest with the public.

Our request seeks written public record of contacts the governor and/or his staff may have had with the Koch Brothers and the groups they fund, and with Ohio utilities. Our request is limited to records relating to Governor Kasich’s decision to freeze the state’s popular and successful renewable energy and energy standard.

Our request pertaining to the Koch Brothers asks for:

“…copies of public records of conversations and/or emails pertaining to Senate Bill 310 between Governor Kasich, hi staff and alec-logo-sm
representatives of organizations that are known to receive financial support from Charles and David Koch , as well as their respective family foundations. This includes but is not limited to the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity.” (emphasis added).

Governor Kasich’s response ducks our question:

“The Governor’s Office has no public records responsive to your request for any emails or meetings between the Governor, his staff and Charles and David Koch or representatives of their foundations (emphasis added).

Tellingly, their response leaves out ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, as well as any of the other front groups that may receive Koch money.

They also dodge our request about conversations with the utilities. They have decided to duck behind legalisms rather than be transparent with the public.

They say that our request in this matter “does not provide enough guidance as to the specific records we are seeking”.

We simply want to know what their record of contact was with utilities that pushed for this freeze on clean energy jobs. Governor Kasich pushed this freeze despite opposition from the business community, criticism from the state’s editorial pages, and in the face of overwhelming support from the public.

We believe our request is self-evident, but we are working on a clarification for Governor Kasich’s office. Governor Kasich is doing the public a disservice by playing a bureaucratic cat-and-mouse game about the state’s energy jobs future. This is doubly true as we’ve seen two recent examples of clean energy manufacturers opting to site in surrounding states, and not in Ohio.

When we made this records request, we were hopeful that the Kasich administration would look at it as an opportunity to be honest with Ohio voters. The response we received makes it clear that they instead prefer to hide their actions from the public.

You can read the Kasich administration’s full response here.